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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK


E-hallmark promised for Web trade

The Consumer Gateway links to advice and information

By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall

The UK government says it hopes to have an e-commerce code and e-hallmarks ready by the end of the year to boost consumer confidence in buying goods online.

Details of the code were published in a Consumer White Paper on Thursday, which also announced a new Website, The Consumer Gateway, with information to help consumers get a better deal in both the online and offline worlds.

In another development, the government is expected to publish a long-awaited electronic commerce bill, now renamed the Electronic Communications bill, on Friday. Comments will be welcomed as the bill cannot be introduced in parliament before November at the earliest.

Code to address consumers' needs

The e-commerce code is based on three requirements, according to the White Paper:

  • Consumers want to be sure that the payments they make electronically are secure and that extra and unknown entries will not suddenly appear on their statements.

  • They will not buy electronically unless they are reasonably confident that what they have ordered will turn up, and will be as described, or that they have an easy means of sorting problems out or getting their money back.

  • They want to know that there is reasonable privacy about the records of what they buy or look at.

Building online trust

The e-hallmark will guarantee that its users are legitimate traders offering assurances on security of payments and communications and giving accurate information on goods, prices and a returns policy.

A new body, with the working title of TrustUK, will be set up to accredit e-commerce codes and there are plans to market the e-hallmark internationally.

The government says it wants to work in Europe for an EU-wide code and with the OECD on its guidelines for consumer protection.

Consumers' Association pioneers Web Trader

The code is being drawn up with the help of the Alliance for Electronic Business and the Consumers' Association. The Association launched a similar scheme last month called Web Trader.

The Electronic Communications bill will deal with the legality of electronic signatures and the setting up of a voluntary licensing system for those wanting to offer services such as the secure transmission of data.

The most contentious part of the bill deals with a right of law enforcement authorities to serve decryption notices on those it suspects are using coded data for criminal pruposes.

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